Tag: indie pop

New Video: Joseph Releases a Shimmering and Bittersweet Ode to New Year’s Eve

Deriving their name from their grandfather Jo and the tiny Oregon town of  Joseph, OR, in which he was born and raised, the  Portland, OR-based sibling indie pop trio Joseph, comprised of Natalie Closner Schepman and her two, younger twin sisters Meegan and Alison grew up in a musical household — their dad was a jazz singer and drummer, their mom a theater teacher. However, their collaboration together can trace their origins back to around 2014: Schepman who had been pursuing a solo career as a signer/songwriter, recruited her sisters to join her in a new project. When the Closner sisters began collaborating together, they quickly recognized an irresistible and undeniable simpatico.

The trio quickly developed a reputation for playing intimate house shows, in which the siblings accompanied themselves with acoustic guitar and foot drum. Interestingly, within their first year working together, the trio self-released their debut, 2014’s Native Dreamer Kin, which caught the attention of ATO Records, who signed the group the following year. After releasing 2015’s, ATO Sessions EP, an acoustic, two song, digital EP and accompanying video series, the sibling trio went on to release their Mike Mogis-produced, label debut 2016’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not, which featured the smash hit “White Flag.” “White Flag” landed on Spotify’s US Viral Top Ten Chart within days of its release. By October, the track landed at #1 on the Adult Alternative Charts.

Building upon a rapidly growing profile, the trio made appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Later . . . with JoolsHolland, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Conan, CBS This Morning and Today. They also opened for James Bay during a sold out, 2016 arena tour — and they made festival stops at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Festival, Sasquatch Festival, Glastonbury Festival, Outside Lands Festival, Pilgrimage Music Festival and several others.

Released earlier this year, the trio’s Christian “Leggy” Langdon-produced sophomore album Good Luck, Kid is the highly anticipated follow-up to their critically applauded and commercially successful label debut, and the album finds the trio pushing their sound in a grittier, more dynamic direction while retaining the gorgeous harmonizing and earnest vocals that won them attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere. “The through-line of the album is this idea of moving into the driver’s seat of your own life-recognizing that you’re an adult now, and everything’s up to you from this moment on,” Natalie Closner Schepman says in press notes.  “You’re not completely sure of how to get where you need to go, and you don’t have any kind of a map to help you. It’s just the universe looking down on you like, ‘Good luck, kid.’”

I wrote about album single “Green Eyes,” a track that found the sibling trio meshing classic Phil Spector Wall of Sound-era pop with hints of old-school country and contemporary pop with an arrangement that featured twinkling piano, strummed acoustic guitar, dramatic drumming, an enormous hook and the Closner Sisters’ gorgeous harmonizing. And much like their previously released work, the single was a slickly produced, radio friendly pop confection, centered around ambitious yet incredibly earnest songwriting: in this case, the song’s narrator recognizes that their relationship is at a crossroads — and that she will be forced to make a life changing decision. 

The album’s latest single, “NYE” is a shimmering slow-burn centered around strummed guitar, twinkling and arpeggiated keys, the Closners’ gorgeous harmonies and a soaring hook. But at its core, the song — to me, at least — may arguably be the most ambivalent and ambiguous song emotionally that they’ve released to date with the song managing to evoke the confusion swirl of emotions many of us feel when the New Year rolls around: the dashed hopes of a great night that’s gone horribly; the sense of relief that a difficult year or decade has come to an end; the bittersweet recognition that time is rushing by and that you’re getting older; the slow dance or the kiss you’ll hopefully get as the clock strikes midnight, if you have someone — or met someone cute that night; and the hope that the next year (and in our case, the next decade) will be better. 

Directed by Justin Frick, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “NYE” is appropriately set at a New Year’s Eve party with an enormous disco ball. And it accurately captures the ambivalent and ambitious emotions at the core of the song. 

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Gabriel Bødker Johnson is a Danish multi-instrumentalist and producer, best known as the creative mastermind behind the emerging solo, pop recording project thirdcurl. Interestingly, Johnson’s latest thirdcurl single “with you,” a collaboration with fellow multi-instrumentalist and producer Casper Iskov can trace some of its origins to when a 14 year old Johnson met Iskov, who was a local music legend at the time. Much like Johnson, Iskov began his music career when he was 12.

Around the same time, Johnson was honing his skills with DJ equipment and FL Studio.  Pioneer released a YouTube ad featuring new DJ equipment, which featured a deadmau5 remix of Daft Punk captured Johnson’s interest — and it began a lifelong obsession with deadmau5. Sometime later, the acclaimed electronic music producer and DJ hosted live streams sharing his creative process, and a young Johnson watched as many of those streams as possible. There’s a reason I mention Johnson’s obsession with deadmau5: you see, the first song that Johnson wrote back in 2011 was a version of his latest single “with you,” which at the time as the Danish multi-instrumentalist and producer explains “was a complete copy of a traditional deadmau5 track. I put it on YouTube because I was simply so proud to have made my own electronic track.”

As for the track “with you” is a radio friendly pop confection, centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, thumping beats, Iskov’s plaintive vocals and a rousingly anthemic hook — and as a result, the single manages to sonically nod a bit at New Order and Tame Impala.  “With You” got a brand new life, when Iskov heard an early mix of  the track, loved what he heard and contributed lyrics to the new version — and of course, it marks the first collaboration between the two.

“Casper and I moved in together in an old house outside of Copenhagen together with Emil Kiltsgaard, who helped me to do the cover for the track, and Andreas Frandsen, who plays bass with me on stage,” Johnson says in press notes. “During this time, Casper and I sat down and finally managed to finish the track in 2018. 7 years it took to finish “with you.” We’re very proud of the track, as it features the same lyrics he wrote back then and because it still features the main elements of what I’d made so many years ago. But above all “with you” played a part of us becoming friends.”

 

 

 

Jose James is a Minneapolis, MN-born singer/songwriter, guitarist and producer, who has spent his career bouncing around genres and styles at will: he spent a decade reshaping jazz with the genre-blurring verve of a crate-digging beat guru — and while receiving accolades for his early work, became a solo R&B star. Interestingly, after spending the past couple of years recording and touring with Bill Withers‘ legendary songbook for the Lean on Me project, the critically applauded singer/songwriter guitarist and producer returns to his own original work with the forthcoming release of the highly-anticipated No Beginning No End 2, the follow up — and sequel — to his critically applauded 2013 effort, No Beginning No End, an effort that featured a crowd-pleasing eclecticism.

Of course several things have changed since the release of No Beginning No End. The highly-anticipated follow up and sequel is James’ first release on his own Rainbow Blonde Records, an independent record label, multi-disciplinary collective and open-spirited community founded by Talia Billig, Brian Bender and James on a few simple principles:

  • it’s run by artists for artists,
  • it’s a one-stop shop with a superstar in-house crew,
  • music is culture — not product
  • none of it works if you’re not having fun doing it

Deeply inspired by Janelle Monae‘s Wondaland Arts Society,Flying LotusBrainfeeder and Solange’s Saint Heron, Rainbow Blonde is space designed to allow artists to be creative without feeling inundated or pressured by the confines of big business. As for the album’s material, it features an eclectic and impressive cast of collaborators including Laura Mvula, Aloe Blacc, Ledisi, Lizz Wright, Erik Truffaz, Hindi Zahra and more paired with a backing band which featured Brett Williams, Kris Bowers, and Takeshi Ohbayashi playing keys; Marcus Machado, Alan Hampton and album co-producer Brian Bender playing guitar; Ben williams on bass; Quetzal‘s Alberto Lopez. Reportedly, the end result is some of the warmest and most defined material James has written and released — that also manages to draw on the Afro-Latin tinged sounds of 70s soul.

No Beginning No End 2‘s first single is the strutting “Turn Me Up.” Centered around a warm, classic soul-inspired arrangement featuring twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, copious amount of congo, twinkling, arpeggiated keys, funky bursts of guitar, effortlessly soulful vocals from James and Aloe Blacc and an infectious hook the song manages to balance ambition and craft with a jam-like vibe, while nodding at Simply Bill-era Bill Withers, Heatwave, Stevie Wonder and others.

James will be embarking on a tour to build up buzz and then support No Beginning No End 2 and the tour includes a March 25, 2020 stop at Bowery Ballroom. Check out the tour dates below.

2020 Tour Dates
2/12: Tokyo, JP @ Billboard Live
2/14: Osaka, JP @ Billboard Live
3/21: Denver, CO @ Dazzle Jazz
3/22: Los Angeles, CA @ Lodge Room
3/25: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
3/27: Washington, DC @ The Hamilton Live
5/7: Evanston, IL @ SPACE
5/8-9: Minneapolis, MN @ Dakota

 

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Lake Jons Releases a Cinematic and Brooding Meditation on Life

Since their formation in 2014, the Helsinki, Finland-based JOVM mainstays Lake Jons, comprised of Jooel Jons and Mikko Pennanen have managed to walk a fine line between production tandem and full-fledged band, while crafting delicate, electro folk-leaning dream pop. Last year’s self-titled debut, which was released to praise across Scandinavia and elsewhere was written and recorded in an isolated cabin, deep within the Finnish forest. Thematically and sonically, their self-titled debut found the duo aiming to examine, capture, and represent the tenuous connection that still exists between the natural world and the human world.

Lake Jons’ sophomore album The Coast was released earlier this year, and the album finds the duo further reconnecting with their roots and delving even deeper into the Towars Forest. The album thematically is the duo’s attempting to dismantle life, space and time; but sonically, the Finnish JOVM mainstays radically reinventing their sound: the material is generally centered around rough instrumental parts, then layered with harmony-driven toplines, with the songs seemingly assembling themselves in seamless fashion. 

Over the past couple of months, I’ve written about three of the album’s previously released singles — “It’s Too Bright,” “Simone,” and “Human.” All of these tracks have managed to further cemented the duo’s unusual and forward-thinking approach to contemporary pop. “It’s Too Bright,” which was built around a sparse production  of twinkling keys, shimmering hi-hats, boom-bap like beats, a driving bass line and Jooel Jons’ plaintive falsetto was a seamless meshing of elements of R&B, electro pop,  jazz, folk and experimental pop while retaining the infectious hooks that won them attention across the blogosphere. “Simone” was centered around a hazy and dusty production of strummed guitar,  fluttering and arpeggiated synths, wobbling low end and stuttering beats. And while continuing  to be a perfect vehicle for Jons’ plaintive falsetto, the song was imbued with a sense of loss, longing and the acknowledgement that there are some connections that seem to transcend physical space and time itself. “Human” was a haunting and lingering fever dream, that found the JOVM mainstays walking a fine line between careful and deliberate craft and stream of consciousness-like improvisation. 

The album’s fourth and final single is the hushed  and haunting “Circle.” Centered around a sparse arrangement of strummed guitar, thumping beats, atmospheric electronics and Jons’ achingly tender vocals. But unlike its predecessors, the song is a brooding mediation on existence and its delicacy. “Circle is such a complete shape,” Jons says in press notes. “The essence of existence is so full of intricacies, both delicate and powerful, and the circle of life is among them. It’s something that is maintained, even through humanity’s efforts to break everything. The song tells a small story about a boy, who lived by the waters of Lake Jons, and one day decided to leave the words. It’s a letter to a  dear friend: life is a mysterious circle.” 

“Directed by Raimo Saba, the video does a great job of portraying the theme of the song,” Jons says of the recently released video for “Circle.” “I have my uncle Pekka, who is an actor, featured which makes this video a little more personal to me. Seeing the finished version for the first time, it almost allowed me to gain a new perspective and experience of the song. Raimo has managed to capture and convey the emotions interwoven in the song.”

The video’s director Raimo Saba adds,  “Thinking about freedom in itself brings with it subconscious limitations. I think the concept of freedom is more valuable than one can even understand. It is not just an external concept. It is bound to be a state of yourself and where outside factors have no effect on your state of being.”

LeRiche is an emerging Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada-based indie pop singer/songwriter. The Newfoundland and Labrador-based singer/songwriter has long had a passion for music — one that can be traced to when he stretched his fingers out on a six-string guitar when he was baby. Since then he has pushed himself to explore musically and creatively, picking up piano, bass and drums. eventually discovering an interest and passion for songwriting.

The emerging Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada-based earned  diplomas in Music Industry and Performance and Recording Arts from the College of the North Atlantic. With close to a decade of playing gigs across the province, LeRiche began to be recognized provincially, winning the province’s Battle of the Bands with a previous band — and later even internationally, when he was chosen to represent Canada at the 2012 Global Village in Qatar.

Interestingly, the Newfoundland and Labrador-based singer/songwriter’s latest single is the slickly produced and breezy, Tame Impala-like confection “Connected.” Centered around a bouncy and propulsive rhythm, shimmering guitars, the rising Canadian artist’s plaintive vocals and an enormous hook. And while revealing an ambitious songwriter who can craft a slick, hook driven bop, the song as LeRiche told me via email, “is a song about communication, or lack thereof.”

“In many ways as a society we have never been more together: closer than ever. Access to the internet creates many opportunities and advantages, but can also have a negative side,” the Newfoundland and Labrador-based artist continues. “Today, in many normal situations we find ourselves feeling disconnected from those around us, because we’ve hired a middle man to help us communicate.Sometimes it just gets in the way of genuine connection.

“Put down your phone. Stay connected to what really matters.”

 

LeRiche begins 2020 with a two week tour across Germany. Check out the tour dates below.

 

2020 Germany Tour

09.01.20 – Husum – Bahnhofsbistro

10.01.20 – Sylt – Friends Bistro

11.01.20 – Stralsund – Buehne Blechwerk

13.01.20 – Luebeck – Tonfink

14.01.20 – Hamburg – Freundlich & Kompetent

15.01.20 – Mittweida – Studentenclub

16.01.20 – Oberhausen – Druckluft

17.01.20 – Dormagen – Pink

18.01.20 – Bielefeld – Cafe Künstlerei

21.01.20 – Nürnberg  – Ludwigs

22.01.20 – Stuttgart – Cafe Galao

23.01.20 – Muenchen – Glockenbachwerkstatt

24.01.20 – Bayreuth – Schokofabrik

25.01.20 – Weilburg – Cozy

26.01.20 – Chemnitz – Kaffeesatz

28.01.20 – Hannover – Cafe Glocksee

New Video/New Audio: Two from Emerging San Francisco-based Indie Pop Artist ZOLA

With the release of her debut EP Everything I Know, an effort that has amassed over 500,000 streams, the San Francisco-based pop artist ZOLA quickly emerged into both the local and national scene for a sound and approach that effortlessly and seamlessly meshes genres, styles and languages.

Building upon a growing profile, the emerging San Francisco-based artist’s latest single, the Tim Vickers-produced “Crystal Floors” is a genre–blurring David Lynch-like fever dream as the track is centered around a breezy, Bossa nova rhythms, shimmering synths, a sinuous hook, and Zola’s alluring jazz-inspired vocals singing lyrics in English and French.

The recently released Andy Omvik-produced video for “Crystal Floors” possesses a surreal and dream-like logic as it features the rapidly rising singer/songwriter, a beautiful chestnut colored horse, an old fashioned telephone and a disco ball. 

Along with the release of the video for “Crystal Floors,” the San Francisco-based pop artist released “Telephone,” the second single off her soon-to-be released sophomore EP, an effort slated for a January 2020 release. While continuing a run of bilingual songs, which feature lyrics sung in English and French, “Telephone” is a straightforward bit of soulful pop, centered around a swaggering arrangement of twinkling keys, a sinuous bass line, boom bap-like beats and Zola’s jazz-inspired delivery. Both tracks reveal a young artist, who’s not only self-assured beyond her years, but has one of the most unique voices in contemporary indie pop. 

 

The People Versus is an Oxford, UK-based chamber pop quintet — currently comprised of Alice, Benedict, Danny, Jack and Sean — that can trace its origins to a spontaneously combination of each of its members previous collaborations and projects. Essentially, the project features four singer/songwriters and former lead singers, whose combined vocals and instrumental parts form a perfect vehicle for their lead singer, Alice’s vocals.

Interestingly, while centered on narrative songwriting, the band’s material thematically focuses on love, loss and dreams while drawing from Greek myths and Shakespeare. The up-and-coming British act’s latest single, the hauntingly gorgeous “Ground Opening” features Alice’s beguiling vocals, a shimmering arrangement of acoustic guitar, soaring strings,  a stunning multi-part harmony and a rousing hook that gives the song a cinematic air. To my ears, their latest single reminds me quite a bit of The Cranberries‘ smash hit “Linger” but with a folksy yet classical leaning. As the band explains, the song is a re-telling of the ancient Greek myth of Hades and Persephone, which explains the turn of the seasons but while touching upon love and power dynamics in romantic relationships.